‘We cannot have reconciliation without the truth’

The following statement was released by the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta June 22:

We, the sovereign chiefs of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, mourn the recent discovery of the mass grave of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School built on the Tk ‘emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

Not long after, we felt the pain and trauma again after the discovery of more than 100 children buried at the former Brandon Residential School near Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. The discoveries continue and the numbers grow, reconfirming the truth of the stories told by residential school survivors.

Presently, the federal government continues to fight residential school survivors in court. The federal government has deflected, shifted blame, and refused to acknowledge its responsibility in creating, funding, and facilitating this program of genocide. In their own words, the federal government continues to refer to what they did to our people as “cultural genocide.” A safe statement that is not punishable in the colonial court system.

The highest concentration of residential schools in Canada were in Treaty 8 territory. Of the 25 residential schools in Alberta, 11 were in Treaty 8.

What has not been considered is that many schools were relocated during their operation – there could be multiple burial sites. Residential schools are not the only sites we should be looking to for our kin. Day schools, where Indigenous children faced similar horrors, were also in operation across this country and of course, the Charles Camsell hospital. The hospital is located in Edmonton, where members of Treaty 8 were sent for ‘medical treatments.’ Many Indigenous peoples were instead experimented on, sterilized, tortured, murdered and buried in unmarked graves.

We, the sovereign chiefs of Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, will not let the federal government avoid accountability in their role of genocide – the deliberate, systemic mass murder of our people.

We call upon:

  • Provincial and territorial governments to release all information regarding cemetery/burial sites;
  • The Roman Catholic Church to release all information or records, which would assist in the discovery of any of our missing children;
  • The Anglican Church to release all information or records, which would assist in the discovery of any of our missing children;
  • The federal government to provide all means necessary to support and fund the search for our missing children;
  • Municipal, provincial, federal governments and the denominations of Christian churches, who operated residential schools, to accept responsibility for their role in the genocide of our people.

We will develop a plan to search our own lands for our children. There is no trust in the levels of government and churches to assist us; we fear they would contaminate the findings or claim no remains found.

The federal government announced $27 million, over three years, to bring our children home. It is insufficient and will not cover the costs to uncover the lost children across the country.

We need a better plan to repatriate our relatives and give them the proper burials they deserve. We want the full cooperation and support of all levels of government, the churches, landowners, and industry to work with us as we develop and implement our plan for healing.

The United Nations has joined us in our request to uncover and disclose residential school records. Canada is a founding member of the United Nations and has stated, “since the foundation of the UN, Canada has been firmly committed to the promotion of human rights within Canada and around the world.”

The federal government must be held accountable to their own standards. Canada has projected an image of peacekeeping and humanitarianism around the world. Yet, simultaneously, they fight the victims of residential schools in court, destroy records of government funded genocide, and dismiss their responsibility in perpetuating genocide in their own country.

The 11 residential schools within Treaty 8 Territory are:

  • Assumption [Hay Lakes] – Assumption, AB.
  • St. Martin’s Roman Catholic – Desmarais, AB
  • St. John’s Anglican – Wabasca, AB
  • St. Henry’s – Fort Vermillion, AB
  • St. Bernard’s – Grouard, AB
  • St. Bruno’s – Joussard, AB
  • Holy Angel’s – Fort Chipewyan, AB
  • St. Peter’s – Slave Lake, AB
  • St Augustine – Smoky River, AB
  • St. Francis Xavier – Calais, AB
  • St. Andrew’s –Whitefish First Nation.

Although this list does not include the day schools, industrial schools, or Indian hospitals, they are on the radar.

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